On April 1, 1930, Jonathan Ketchem's wife Jane walked from her house to the police department to ask for help in finding her husband. The men, worn out from a night of chasing bootleggers, did what they could. But no one ever saw Jonathan Ketchem again…
Now decades later, someone else is missing in Miller's Kill, NY. This time it's the physician of the clinic that bears the Ketchem name. Suspicion falls on a volatile single mother with a grudge against the doctor, but Reverend Clare Fergusson isn't convinced. As Clare and Russ investigate, they discover that the doctor's disappearance is linked to a bloody trail going all the way back to the hardscrabble Prohibition era. As they draw ever closer to the truth, their attraction for each other grows increasingly more difficult to resist. And their search threatens to uncover secrets that snake from one generation to the next-and to someone who's ready to kill.
Out Of The Deep I Cry
The third book in the Reverend Clare Fergusson series, 2004
To Lois Greuling Fleming
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Casketes of jewels and coffers of gold,
Richer than I you can never be-
I had a Mother who read to me.
– STRICKLAND GILLIAN
Getting a book out is like running political campaign: one person may be in the spotlight, but it took the efforts of many to get her there. With that in mind, I’d like to thank everyone at St. Martin’s Press, especially my editor, Ruth Cavin, the hardworking Rachel Ekstrom, and the sales reps who log so many miles in their cars selling my books.
Thanks also to my agent, the “brilliant and handsome”™ Jimmy Vines, and to Ross Hugo-Vidal, the greatest “husband-of-author” in history.
The Crandall Library of Glens Falls, the Nurse-Practitioner Association of New York, Timothy LaMar, and Roxanne Eflin provided expert assistance; Laura Rayfield and Norm Madsen allowed me to use their names, I thank you all.
Thanks to my parents, John and Lois Fleming, whose comments made this a better book, and to Mary and Bob Weyer, whose help keeps my family from imploding.
Susan and Peter Heldman, Tim and Margie Grein, Evonne, Daniel and Michelle McNabb gave me shelter in my travels. Thank you.
Tack vare allt, min reslig man.
Jag saknar dig, min älsking.
Out of the deep I call
To Thee, O Lord, to thee.
Before Thy throne of grace I fall;
Be merciful to me.
Out of the deep I cry,
The woeful deep of sin,
Of evil done in days gone by,
Of evil now within;
Out of the deep of fear
And dread of coming shame;
All night till morning watch is near
I plead the precious name.
Lord, there is mercy now,
As ever was, with Thee.
Before Thy throne of grace I bow;
Be merciful to me.
– Henry W. Baker,
The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1942)Chapter 1
Friday, June 26, 1970
Russ Van Alstyne had just gotten a tug on his line when he saw the old lady get up from between the headstones she had been trimming, lay down her gardening tools, and walk into the reservoir. She had been tidying up a tiny plot, four moldering grave markers tucked under the towering black pines, so close to the edge of Stewart’s Pond Reservoir that a good motorboat wake could have kicked spray over the stones. She had appeared at some point after he and Shaun had launched their rowboat, and he had noted her, now and then, while they had drifted in the sunshine.
They had been fishing a couple hours already, enjoying the hot weather, and some brews, and some primo grass Shaun’s older brother had scored down to Albany, but Russ had only landed a few sunnies, crap fish he threw back as soon as he had them off the hook.
So when his six-pound test tightened like a piano wire and his bobber disappeared beneath the water, he sat up, excited. He knew he had something good. Maybe a trout. He had just stowed his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the bottom of the boat and flicked off his safety to let the fish run some more line when he noticed the old woman. She had on a loose print dress, like one of the housecoats his mom had had forever, and it rose around her legs as she waded slowly away from the shore.
“Shaun, check this out,” he said, uncertain that he was reading the situation right. “What’s it look like that old lady’s doing?”
Shaun turned his head, swinging his graduation tassel, which he had attached to his fishing hat. He twisted his upper body around for a better view. “Swimming?”
“In a dress?”
“Works for me, man. I don’t want to see her in a swimsuit.” Shaun turned back, facing away from the sight of the old woman marching into the water. His line jerked. “I got a strike!” He unlocked his reel and played out his line. “Relax, I’ve run the boat over that way before. The bottom slopes out a long ways.”
She was up to her chest now, moving steadily forward, not stroking with her arms or ducking under the surface like people do when taking a dip. “She’s not swimming,” Russ said. “She’s not even trying.” He looked past her, to where a patchy trail led from the little cemetery, through the trees, and eventually up to the county road. There wasn’t anyone there to keep an eye on her. She was alone. He thrust his rod at Shaun and tugged off his sneakers. He could reach her faster swimming than he could rowing. He stood up, violently pitching the little boat.
“Hey! Are you crazy? You’re gonna swamp us!” Shaun twisted on his seat in time to see the old woman’s chin sliding into the water. “Oh, shit,” he said.
Russ shoved his jeans down and kicked them off, knocking over both their beers in the process. He balanced one foot on the hull’s edge and launched himself into the water.
Even in mid-June the reservoir was cold, still gorged on the icy spring runoff from the Adirondacks. His whole body flinched inward, but he struck out for the shore: long, hard strokes through the water, his face dipping rhythmically in, out, in; sacrificing his view of her for the speed. He drew up to where the shadow of the somber pines split the water into light and dark. He treaded water, spinning around, looking for a sign of her. She had vanished.
“She went there!” Shaun yelled. He was struggling to get the rowboat turned around. “There, a couple yards to your left!”
Russ took a deep breath and submerged. In the deep twilight of the water, he could just see her, a pale wraith flickering at the edge of his vision. As he arrowed toward her, she emerged from the gloom like a photograph being developed. She was still walking downward, that was what was so creepy, toes brushing against the coarse-grained bottom, flowered dress billowing, white hair floating. She was still walking downward like a drowned ghost, and then, as if she could hear the pounding of his heart, she turned and looked at him, open-eyed under the water. Her eyes were black, set in a white, withered face. It was like having a dead woman stare at him.
He was an easy swimmer, confident in the water, but at her look, he panicked. He opened his mouth, lost his air, and struck up wildly for the surface, thrashing, kicking. He emerged choking and spluttering, hacking and gulping air. Shaun was rowing toward him, still a couple dozen yards away, and he knelt up on the bench when he saw Russ. “Can you find her?” he shouted. “Are you okay?” Unable to speak, Russ raised his hand. Shaun’s hand froze on the oar. “Jesus! She’s not dead already?”
She wasn’t yet, but she would be if he didn’t get his act together and haul her out of the water. Without letting himself think about it any further, Russ took a deep breath and doubled over, back into the deep. This time when she appeared in his sight he ignored her face and concentrated on wrapping his arm around her chin in the standard lifesaving position. She struggled against him, clawing at his arm and pulling his hair, which was almost a relief compared to her weird, ghost-like walking. Something normal, something he could deal with. He tightened his grip and churned upward, his free arm aching with the effort, her dress tangling his legs. Before he reached the surface, he felt her go limp. How many minutes since she walked in? Time yawned open. It felt like he had been under the lake forever. When he split the water, hauling her with him, she drifted, slack, held up by his arm beneath her chin.
Oh no you don’t
. He turned onto his back and stroked hard toward shore, floating her near his chest, so lost in the rhythm of pull and breath and kick that he didn’t realize he was there until he reached back and hit coarse grit instead of cold water. He rolled to his knees and half dragged, half carried the old lady onto the grass. He pinched her nose, tilted her head back, and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Blow. Breath. Blow. Breath.
He heard the scrape of the rowboat’s keel and then Shaun was there, falling to his knees on the other side of the old lady’s head. He pushed against Russ’s shoulder. “Let me take a turn, man,” he said. “You need to get a breath for yourself.” Russ nodded. He watched as Shaun picked up his rhythm, and then Russ let himself collapse into the grass.
He heard a gargling cough and shoved himself out of the way as Shaun rolled the old lady to her side. She gasped, choked, and then vomited up a startling quantity of water. She started to cry weakly. He met Shaun’s eyes over her shoulder. Shaun spread his hands and shrugged.
Russ staggered back onto his feet. Curled up on her side, weeping, the woman didn’t look scary anymore, just old and lost. “I think we ought to get her to the hospital,” Russ said. “Run up the trail and see if she parked a car beside the road.”
Swinging wide around the tiny cemetery, Shaun loped to the overgrown path and disappeared from view. Russ returned to the rowboat and dragged it up onto the grass as far as he could. He retrieved his jeans-stinking of beer-and his sneakers, and had just finished getting dressed when Shaun ran back down the trail.
“ ’Sup there,” he panted, pointing toward the road. “Keys in the ignition and all.”
“Good.” Russ knelt by the old woman and carefully pulled her into a sitting position. “Ma’am? Can you walk? What’s your name?”
The old lady leaned against his shoulder. She wasn’t exactly crying anymore, but making deep, shaky sounds like a little kid. She didn’t seem to hear him. He wondered if she was senile, and if so, what she was doing driving around by herself. He looked back at Shaun. “I think we need to carry her.”
“What about our stuff?” Shaun pointed to the boat. “It’s not just the fishing tackle, man. I still have”-he dropped his voice, as if a narc might be hiding behind one of the headstones-“almost an ounce of grass in there.”
The woman gave a rattling sigh and lapsed into a still silence that made Russ uneasy. “Bring it,” he said. “Or hide it. This lady needs help. We gotta get her to a doctor.”
“Oh, shit,” Shaun said. “Okay.” He strode to the rowboat and grabbed the backpack he used to carry his paraphernalia. “But if anything happens to the boat, you’re gonna be the one who explains it to my dad.”
Russ laughed, a short, sharp sound. “Fine. I’m not gonna be around long enough for him to kick my ass.”
They laced their hands together and eased the woman into a seat carry. With Shaun on the other side, she didn’t weigh as much as some of the sacks Russ toted for customers at Greuling’s Grocery. The trail up to the county road was less than a half mile, and within ten minutes they burst out of the shade of the pines and into open air and brilliant sunshine. Shaun jerked his head toward a ’59 Rambler wagon. Two-toned: baby-shit brown and tired tan. Russ pulled open the back door and shut his eyes for a moment against the wave of thick, moist heat that rolled out of the car.